From what I heard, Vancouver has a lot of good restaurants. I spent the last year or so listening to Celeste (Raymonds’ pastry chef — queen of the apple cake dessert) about Vancouver. Whenever she flew home, she came back with tales of dim sum, pho and everything else that she ate. Not to mention that last spring, while it was snowing in St. John’s, my friends who lived in Vancouver (including Celeste’s family who were tagging her) posted pictures of the cherry blossoms in full bloom. To say the least, Vancouver made a really good impression.
It was mild and a little drizzly when I arrived. I think it was around 10C. Some guy on the taxi stand commented that he was cold. I told him that I had just arrived from St. John’s. Newfoundland. And he looked at me and just said “That’s a long way!”
I was hungry and tired when I got to my hotel. I also felt like I needed a drink. I was staying in downtown, on Homer. I texted Celeste and asked her for recommendations for quick, late night food and drinks. I wanted to lay down before heading out. She had recommended several places and while I checked when they closed (some were closing in half an hour — I didn’t want to be THAT person) she had followed up with recommending the Alibi Room.
The Alibi Room is located in a residential/commercial block just on the outskirts of Gastown. I called a cab because even of it was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel, I had to consider the time (it was around 10 pm), and the fact that I have never been to Vancouver and I won’t be able to tell if I had stepped into a sketchy area. I can’t say that the Alibi Room is a pub, it doesn’t have the pub vibe even if they have 20 plus beers on tap, all of them from local breweries or at least nearby breweries. I sit at the bar and asked for a cider while looking at the menu. I see falafel. Yum! I have been craving falafel ever since my colleague Ross accidentally put too much baking soda in the falafels meant for staff. I had a platter of olives, cucumbers, peppers, hummus and pita with the falafels! I didn’t really expect it to be big. I wanted a small meal. Lol I had to skip another drink once I was finished. Sad, sad.
The next day I woke bright and early, 6 AM to be exact. And the saddest part is that Starbucks is the only place that is open THAT early. One of the places that Celeste recommended is Medina Cafe, but they opened at 8 AM. I needed coffee. COFFEE. COFFEEE!!!! But Celeste also said to go to Medina hungry. Ugh. I went down to the lobby to see that the hotel served breakfast! So I thought I would have a cup of coffee to tide me over till 8 AM. And then I saw the croissants. It was all downhill from there. I considered having lunch at Medina instead, but I only had 2 days in Vancouver. I have to hustle. Plus, I have a 1:30 appointment at the hair salon. So I went to Medina, even if I was a little full.
After breakfast at Medina (more about Medina later), I went for a walk around downtown. I walked from Medina to the harbor, I also decided to walk to the hair salon where I had an appointment. My appointment wasn’t till 1:15 PM. It was 11:30 at this point and I was beginning to feel like I’m almost ready for lunch. I wanted to stay in the area so I wouldn’t be late for my haircut. But it was all mostly fast food. “Where is that ramen place Celeste told me about?!” Ah! Motomachi Shokudo! I Yelp-ed it. You know what’s bad about wanting ramen on a Wednesday? It’s THE only day the best ramen place (according to Celeste) is closed. What luck! So…where to go? That is near and I can walk to, that is also ramen. I Yelp-ed again, they recommended Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, part of a chain from Japan, which I didn’t realize at that moment. HAHA I walked to Robson. There was 4 people ahead of me in the line. And shortly after I queued there came 5 more. And then 10 more showed up after I was sat. I was sat shortly after I got there, the perks of being single. HAHA
I sat next to a gentleman at the bar, who also complained that it was cold. He had asked the server to close the door. He leaned into me and said “It’s cold eh?! The hot soup will help!” I looked at him, “I just got here from Newfoundland, I’m sweating right now. But I heard the ramen here is good.” He laughed and said he’s gonna shut up. LOL They had different kinds of ramen at Santouka. And the gentleman beside me had his suggestions, I was about to order what he suggested but I saw the Tsukemen! I mean, I know it wont be anywhere close to the real deal in Japan. But I had to try it! I had the small bowl of Tsukemen, which was more than enough for me. It was so good that I had to wonder how the real deal in Japan tsukemen is like. I really had no point of reference, but it was as good as the ramen I had in that little ramen joint in New York many years ago.
I had to brisk walk to the hair salon to make my appointment, which wasn’t easy with a belly full of ramen. I got a great recommendation to check out Granville Island from my hair stylist. After my haircut, I started walking towards Gastown. How many times have I heard Celeste talk about Gastown? Loads. And whenever she mentioned Gastown, I wondered where it was in Vancouver, what was it like. Well, it’s right smack downtown. It’s like Old Montreal in Montreal or La Marais in Paris or Clarke Quay in Singapore. It’s this little spot off the harbor where they re-used older or historical buildings and made them into studios, retail shops or restaurants. At this point it’s 3 PM. And I was thinking about food…again. Yep. It’s like when I’m travelling all I wanna do is eat, and maybe look for spoons. I know that L’Abattoir was in Gastown so I decided to check it out. I passed Steamworks Brewery and made a mental note to have a tasting at some point. L’Abattoir is in this cute little building with a courtyard. Quite frankly if I hadn’t gone into the building for the coffee shop and got curious what’s in the courtyard, I would’ve never been able to find L’Abattoir. From the courtyard, you will see what seems like their pastry or prep kitchen. And that’s how I found L’Abattoir, more about L’Abattoir later!
L’Abattoir was closed and will not open till 5:30. So I decided to head back to Steamworks Brewery for a tasting before supper. I fought the urge to order anything because I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for supper. I mean, drinking two flights of beer should be enough right?! I was pretty lit walking into L’Abattoir for supper. LOL I surprisingly finished most of the beers they had at Steamworks. Pretty decent beers, crowd pleasers! Their Pale Ale wasn’t bad considering that I am not a fan of Pale Ales and their Rye Scotch was a hard pass. LOL There were a lot of micro breweries in Vancouver. They even did walking brewery tours which I couldn’t get on, unfortunately, because of the days that I was there.
On my walk back to the hotel from supper, I realized that I was walking on the road Celeste told me not to walk on! I was running low on battery and trying not to panic, I decided that I should go back to L’Abattoir and ask them to call a cab for me. I chanced on a cab somewhere between Hastings and Gastown. Phew!
Tomorrow is a new day! Lessons learned, when in doubt, call a cab. And also bring your charger everywhere with you!!! Watch out for Vancouver Day 2! And my experiences at Medina Café, L’Abattoir and Bao Bei! 🙂
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, 1690 Robson St. Vancouver BC (604) 681-8121
Steamworks Brewery, The Landing, 375 Water St. Vancouver BC (604) 689-2739
Also, check out www.vancouverbrewerytours.com for those brewery tours I mentioned!